How this 27-year-old built a $60m commercial property empire

Oscar Ledlin said he sacrificed to get where he is today. Picture: Andrew Henshaw
Oscar Ledlin said he sacrificed to get where he is today. Picture: Andrew Henshaw

Oscar Ledlin went from washing dishes in a Thai restaurant at the age of 14, to pushing barrows of concrete at 18, to building a multimillion-dollar commercial construction company by 21.

“I wanted to have a $50 million development portfolio before retirement,” he told the Herald Sun.

“I hit that when I was 26. So I have to reset some goals.”

Now 27 and chief executive of Ledlin Develop, he owns about 37 properties worth about $60 million, including factories, construction sites and land that’s yet to be developed.

Mr Ledlin has built 105 commercial properties over seven years, primarily across southeast Melbourne, but said it was no easy feat.

After leaving school at 17, he was working 50-hour weeks across three jobs in concreting, garden supplies and amateur fighting, plus studying for a business degree at Monash University.

This meant sacrificing holidays, parties, relationships and “all of the things you do in your early 20s”.

Mr Ledlin also sold his pride and joy: his Nissan Sylvia.

Now he drives a Nissan R35 GTR on weekends and a BMW M3 during the week.

“This social media-fuelled, comparison-based spending spree is the Achilles heel of future success stories for a lot of my generation,” he said.

“Gucci T-shirts and Yeezy sneakers will be the death of our financial success; we don’t need Rolex watches and Louis Vuitton sunglasses to impress our friends.

“(I’d advise people to) focus on limiting non-essential spending to get yourself into a strong investment property and treat yourself after you begin reaping the rewards of your earlier sacrifices.”

Oscar Ledlin said he sacrificed to get where he is today. Picture: Andrew Henshaw

Mr Ledlin had saved a $50,000 deposit by the time he turned 21, allowing him to secure a Somerville development project for $800,000. The asking price had been slashed after the previous owners abandoned it due to difficulties.

But his dream of building five factories to kickstart his empire came to an abrupt halt when he was told “the site couldn’t be subdivided or developed” due to drainage issues and low water levels.

But a determined Mr Ledlin sourced plumbing equipment and measured the water levels himself, finding Melbourne Water’s records were incorrect.

He was given the green light to proceed, which raised the property’s value to $2.8 million.

Despite this, Mr Ledlin said he “nearly went broke three times” during the project.

“I kept getting knocked back (for extra finance) — the banks told me I wasn’t experienced enough,” he said.

“So I leveraged off Dad’s assets, ran out of money again, maxed out credit cards and we were a couple of hundred thousand dollars short from finishing.

He sold his Nissan Sylvia and downgraded to this beast.

“Thankfully we pre-sold all five factories, stretched out the supplier’s bills and it just got us over the line.”

The savvy businessman said his age continued to be “a hindrance” as he set about racking up more properties.

“No one would take me seriously and government bodies like Melbourne Water, VicRoads and multiple local councils didn’t give me the same attention (as someone older). So I would take my dad along to all of my meetings, I often still do,” he said.

Mr Ledlin went on to develop many more factories. He sold off all his early builds but has now retained some to lease out.

He worked as a concreter for his dad’s business through university to save up his deposit.

He only targets properties in areas that aren’t built up and have proven demand from potential buyers and tenants.

This means avoiding high-density factory sites like those in Cranbourne or Dandenong South “where you find block after block and someone else is going to build another 10 factories next to you”.

He considers properties at all price points — he’s splashed $800,000 through to $11 million on sites — and land sizes.

Mr Ledlin said if he stumbled across a site he saw potential in, he wasn’t afraid to get on the front foot.

All five factories were pre-sold before completion on the first project, saving Ledlin from running out of funds to finish the build.

He even doorknocked a “little old lady” whose Somerville home on 8000sqm, had caught his eye and discussed the possibility of buying it from her over tea for months, until she was ready to sell.

“I was in a bidding war with another local developer, he offered $150,000 more than I could,” he said.

“But she wanted to sell to me because of the relationship we had. She felt comfortable that I would honour my word and let her live in her house until she was ready to move out.”

The property tycoon says his goals are “less financially-orientated now” as he moves towards more sustainable projects and innovative designs.


* Consider ‘rentvesting’: renting where you want to live and buying in an area you can afford, with good investment prospects

* Take your time, do your research and find investment-grade properties that should provide strong returns, in areas with low vacancy rates and strong population growth

* Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by low interest rates — consider extra costs like GST, stamp duty, leasing fees

* Focus on limiting non-essential spending and treat yourself after you begin reaping the rewards of your earlier sacrifices

This article from The Herald Sun originally appeared as “Oscar Ledlin: 27-year-old developer with $60m portfolio shares advice”.